Care homes owner calls for level playing field in provision for the elderly

A leading care home operator has hit out at the inaction of both the Scottish Government and the Accounts Commission six months after revealing that the independent sector was effectively “subsidising” local authority care.

Robert Kilgour is seeking to establish a cost of care review. Photograph: Nick Mail

Robert Kilgour, who runs Renaissance Care, which operates 14 care homes across Scotland, employing 950 staff, used a Freedom of Information (FoI) request to highlight the disparities between the amounts councils allocate to the independent sector and the weekly cost per person in their own care homes.

In a detailed breakdown of all 32 Scottish local councils spending on building and running their own elderly care homes, North Ayrshire Council set aside between £1,533 to £1,767 each week per resident to provide care. In one care home at Crookston in Tranent, East Lothian Council allocate £1,055 weekly for residential care.

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Kilgour says the councils are paying around half that amount, £594, to the independent sector for residential care and questions why some local authorities run care homes when other choose not to.

He is now calling on the Scottish Government and the Accounts Commission to establish a cost of care review of the NHS, local authorities, voluntary and independent sectors to create a level playing field for elderly care provision – benchmarking current costs across all sectors.

He said: “Neither of these things have happened, and to my knowledge no moves are being made towards either happening in the near future, and that is unacceptable.

“Local councils need to address growing inequalities in funding between local authority and independent homes. What is taking place is a blatant misuse of public money, with tens of millions of pounds wasted every year, and still nothing is being done about it.”

Last year, Kilgour made FoI requests to every Scottish local authority for a detailed breakdown of their care home operations. The requests included how many care homes they currently own, lease or hold under other tenancy agreement, as well as total costs of purchasing, land acquisition, building or renovating these homes – and borrowings required for these. He also requested the total weekly costs per resident for each care home and the average annual salary of managers, deputy managers and assistant managers for each care home.

He added: “The responses show there is no level playing field when it comes to funding elderly care in Scotland. How can local councils expect independent care homes to operate when they are given far lower funding than councils spend on their own homes?

“I wanted to highlight the double standards in operation and, having done so, expected the Accounts Commission and Scottish Government to act on what is a blatant waste of public money.”

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “Local authorities have a duty to ensure care is available, and in some areas, have to operate their own care homes as there are no private providers.

“Despite UK government real terms cuts to Scotland’s resource budget, we have treated local government very fairly. In 2019-20, councils will receive funding through the local government finance settlement of £11.2 billion.”